Hypocrisy alert: why do the Trumpaphobes who gleefully report that Vladimir Putin and the Russians hope Donald Trump is re-elected, overlook the intelligence analyses claiming that China and Iran are rooting for Joe Biden? I know it’s bad form to make complex arguments shortly before a high-stakes presidential election. But even those of us who believe Donald Trump’s treasonous attacks on America’s electoral system justify firing him, must remain realists. Here’s where many of us are stuck: Four more Trumpian years terrify us for the sake of America. But a Biden foreign policy terrifies us for the sake of the world.
As an American historian who has devoted his career to exploring the presidency’s mystical, constructive democratic powers, I am disgusted by Trump’s boorish, narcissistic, hyper-partisan rhetoric. While not the only guilty party, he has harmed the body politic. Instead of trying to unite America, to heal its wounds – he’s poured salt into every social gash and cultural abrasion. And while Democrats like Kamala Harris sound silly pinning every Corona-related death on him, he made America a world leader in mismanaging the Corona-crisis not managing it. Both his subjective and objective failures are fireable offenses.
Joe Biden’s promise “to restore the soul of America,” therefore, speaks to me. If elected, Biden probably would bring decency, maturity, and stability to a White House – and America – desperate for all three. But many Washington insiders know that Biden’s foreign policy record has been remarkably consistent – he’s been wrong on almost every major issue for decades. Like a klutzy line-dancer who quarter-turns left when everyone twirls right, then over-compensates by hopping and kicking in double-time, he was too hawkish regarding the Iraq war, and too dovish regarding George W. Bush’s surge and Barack Obama’s operation to capture Osama bin Laden.
Moreover, Biden promises to drag America backwards to two major Obama misfires: the Iran nuclear non-treaty and perpetual Palestinian peace processing which keeps fueling Palestinian incitement and terrorism. Win or lose, Democrats must learn that even in this hyper-partisan age, not everything Obama did was right and not everything Trump does is wrong – while Republicans need to reverse the lesson.
In 2007, during their Democratic nomination battle, Hillary Clinton called Obama’s eagerness to meet with the dictators running and ruining Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, “irresponsible and frankly naïve.” She was right.
Obama’s half-hearted response to tyranny proved most fatal in Syria. His desperate need for an Iranian nuclear deal telegraphed weakness, especially when the supremely-ineffectual John Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Throughout the negotiations, many of us begged for just one American temper tantrum, one walk out, to wrench more Iranian concessions and boost the Administration’s credibility. Instead, 2015’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) couldn’t even be a “treaty,” because Obama knew he couldn’t win Senate approval. In one of modern America’s most self-defeating moves — and that’s saying a lot — Obama transferred $25 billion to $50 billion in long-frozen funds back to Iran. That included $1.7 billion in pallets of untraceable, non-US currency flown to Tehran. Some of that money flowed quickly to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, destabilizing the region, undermining America’s allies.
So you don’t have to like Trump, or endorse re-electing him, to applaud his Middle East get-tough strategy, which squeezes the evil Iranian regime while financially stressing Hezbollah and other bad actors.
Similarly, compare Trump’s record of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, punishing Palestinian incitement and terror, then facilitating the Abraham Accords, with the Obama-Biden record. Appeasing Palestinians and Iranians reinforced the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate while yielding one positive side effect: O-Biden’s blindspots panicked Iran’s Arab enemies into uniting in fear with Israel.
We’re not talking pro-Israel versus anti-Israel – such terms don’t help in the mainstream American political universe because “pro-Israel” includes Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Joe Biden, and John Kerry. (Unfortunately, there ARE anti-Israel forces and they have found a home in the Democratic Party, but that hasn’t included any Party nominee… yet).
Perhaps a better distinction would be Peace-Processors versus Abrahamites. Peace-Processors – and I’m resisting the impulse to call them Arafatists – still drink Oslo’s if-we-could-only-make-the-Palestinians-happy Kool-Aid. They ignore twenty-plus years’ worth of proof that Palestinian political culture remains maximalist and authoritarian – threatening anyone who dares consider anything other than Israel’s extermination. Biden’s Peace-Processesy refusal to recognize that – and his obsession with “the settlements” as the conflict’s keystone problem – risks producing a foreign policy team staffed by the usual peace-processing retreads. They instinctively reject the Trump-Kushner out-of-the-box approach, even though it’s worked wonders and should be continued not squelched.
The answer to this critique must not be to sputter and say “But Trump…” That’s not an argument. The response should be for pro-Israel Democrats to use whatever pre-election leverage they can to lobby Biden. Don’t believe the polls – the race remains tight. Any pro-Israel pro-Biden activist who contributes much-welcomed time or money to the Democratic campaign at this crucial moment should still articulate these concerns.
And if Biden wins, he must hear the message loud and clear: Just as he won the nomination by ignoring the Twitterverse, the woke extremes, and playing to the center, Biden should follow his instincts if governing – leading the American people not just the far Left, in matters of culture, economics, and foreign policy. True leadership will entail learning some lessons from his predecessor – rather than simply lashing out and undoing the few positive contributions Donald Trump’s one-man values-wrecking crew nevertheless made.
Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of the newly-released The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.. A Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University,and the author of nine books on American History, his book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, co-authored with Natan Sharansky was just published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.